Posted: Jan 31, 2014 2:11 PM PSTUpdated: Jan 31, 2014 2:36 PM PST
Governor McCrory declared this week Human Trafficking Awareness Week.
In the past six years, there have been 1,700 calls from people in North Carolina reporting possible human trafficking. While we often think of girls as the victims of trafficking, local organizations are working to spread awareness and support for the many boys who are being sold over and over again.
Trafficking is broken down into two categories: forced labor and sex. Victims are sometimes runaways or children sold by family members. Since 2007, North Carolina has identified more than 300 potential trafficking cases.
“We usually think it’s happening to girls but it’s actually happening to boys too, here in America, in the streets of America,” said Chris Smith.
Smith is the co-founder and president of Restore One. It’s a non-profit in Greenville that provides recovery programs to boys who are survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. Through funding and help from volunteers, they’re getting ready to break ground on the state’s first shelter to help male victims.
“A lot of these boys their whole life are run away youth have been on the street,” said Smith. ‘They haven’t fostered that culture of family and have never seen how family is and how that operates.”
In addition to housing, The Anchor House will include classrooms, counseling rooms and outdoor recreation. This is something the group Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now says is a step in the right direction.
“We want to let the public know that this is happening and to stop accepting it. To stop developing this culture that it’s ok to pay for children for sex,” said founder of ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, Pam Strickland.
Strickland says North Carolina is ranked in the top ten states for human trafficking.
“The victims don’t self identify,” said Strickland. “They’re hard to find.”
Those are the victims who The Anchor House is hoping to help.
“A lot of the boys and men we have spoken with, it’s not only been about their pain, suffering and trauma they’ve gone through, it’s also about their success that they’re receiving in life through them overcoming this.”
Safety is the number one priority for The Anchor House so its exact location in eastern North Carolina is confidential.
Construction on The Anchor House will begin this spring and phase one will be done by the end of the year.